The Universal Nothing That Is Something
So, you might have come across the minor splash that physicist Stephen Hawking recently made by publishing a book that declares the concept of God unnecessary. Physicist Mike Flynn notes some need for specificity of terms, in such conversations:
… to say that a space-time manifold came from “nothing” is a stretch. The “no-universe state” is not nothing. It is a particular quantum state in “an intricate rule-governed system” and has “specific properties and potentialities defined by a system of mathematical laws.” IOW, there is a whole pre-existing system of quantum physics from which it comes. And this is why Hawking can talk about physical laws before there is anything physical to obey them. See item 2, above. IOW, he has not conceived of Nothing. There is always Something pre-existing.
Barr draws an analogy to the banking system budding off savings accounts. There is a difference between an account with no balance and no account at all. And even when there is no account, there is an “intricate rule-governed system” of banking laws that allows an account to come into existence. That isn’t nothing.
Applying this clarification to the argument on the table, Flynn finds Hawking to be rephrasing the explanation for the origins of the universe offered at the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John. It’s a very interesting dynamic of atheistic science that the farther it advances in search of non-religious causes, the closer it brings our understanding to God — if one just steps back from the equation and incorporates the fact of being.